When someone says franchise, we always think big. Big in terms of sales and longevity. Now, what could possibly be a bigger franchise than our all-time favorite – Mortal Kombat. The ‘90s franchise is definitely something of a landmark in the video game industry. One might say the Mortal Kombat franchise is a gift that just keeps on giving. In fact, we have so much content that we’ve decided to list all Mortal Kombat games in order of their release. So if you’d like to read and reminisce about your favorite Mortal Kombat game, stick around.
When did Mortal Kombat come out?
Midway developed Mortal Kombat (the first game) in 1992. Soon enough, Mortal Kombat (the original game) became the first entry in the Mortal Kombat Series and was released by Acclaim Entertainment. It reached almost every single home platform the very same year. Most people still consider Mortal Kombat to be one of the greatest video games of all time. Fact is, we just can’t get enough. But the burning question on everyone’s mind is, what made Mortal Kombat so popular? And most importantly, why do we still love it after all this time?
What made Mortal Kombat so popular?
In Mortal Kombat, the gameplay’s focus is on seven characters, all with various reasons for entering Shang Tsung’s super secret martial arts tournament. Shang Tsung’s four-armed mutant bodyguard named Goro has won nine tournaments. Should he win this one, the fate of the Earth will be in danger from Shang Tsung’s Outworld. Talk about an elaborate plot, eh?
The original game introduced key aspects that will stick around throughout the series, including the famous five-button control scheme, as well as the famed bloody Fatality finishing moves. The game also went beyond the limit and redefined what was deemed acceptable in interactive media. That fact alone was a huge deal in the ‘90s. It did, however, spark some controversy due to its’ portrayal of extreme violence, as well as bloody gore developed by using realistic digitized graphics.
All Mortal Kombat Games in Order
If you want a comprehensive intro to all Mortal Kombat games so you can pick a new title to play (or simply nourish some nostalgia), then keep on reading: we have gathered the 4-1-1 on all Mortal Kombat Games in order of their release.
MORTAL KOMBAT (1992)
The first Mortal Kombat should definitely be credited as the one that started the whole shebang. However, if we actually take a step back and look at it objectively without the nostalgia factor, we’ll see a whole lot of issues. First of all, the graphics, while gory and bloody, were average at best. That’s not to say the first-ever Mortal Kombat wasn’t fun, with its spectacular flurry of special moves, bloody-as-ever fatalities, and that bellowing voice we all know and love screaming ‘FINISH HIM!’.
MORTAL KOMBAT II (1993)
Now, this one is definitely noteworthy. Mortal Kombat II included a lot of gameplay upgrades, giving us some all-time fan favorites like Kitana, Mileena, and Kung Lao. The second entry’s showdown against the ultimate challenge in Shao Khan also managed to live up to the intensity of the Goro boss battle. What’s more, the game also solidified Midway’s position in the industry.
MORTAL KOMBAT 3 (1995)
The game preserved the legacy of the series in terms of the central theme – the classic kombat with a few additions, like several new warriors, arenas, and more brutal special attacks. On top of that, the game also included new gameplay mechanics, like the ability to perform chain combos and run. However, all these additions were overlooked because some of the fan favorites like Scorpion and Kitana were missing. Midway did rectify this mistake by releasing Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, but we’ll get to that later.
MORTAL KOMBAT TRILOGY (1996)
Trilogy is the second update to Mortal Kombat 3. It’s also the last Mortal Kombat game that used 2D models clashing head to head. This caused a lot of speculation in the gaming world because there was a chance that these changes wouldn’t live up to the gamers’ expectations of purely violent fun. The update brought back a number of stages and characters from previous games. Additionally, it featured a new gameplay mechanic, the Aggressor Bar, charging as the player fought and, once fully charged, produced faster movement and larger attack damage.
MORTAL KOMBAT MYTHOLOGIES: SUB-ZERO (1997)
This game is actually the first entry in the series which isn’t a fighting game.
Even though Sub-Zero is actually classified as an action-adventure game, the play controls stayed very similar to those of the 2D Mortal Kombat fighting games. Another interesting fact about this particular installment is that it also serves as a prequel to Mortal Kombat 4. The player is Bi-Han, the elder Sub-Zero on his quest to locate Shinnok’s amulet.
MORTAL KOMBAT 4 (1997)
And cue what’s probably the most underwhelmingly average entry to the Mortal Kombat Series. In Mortal Kombat 4, Midway hoped to bring back life into the series by delivering 3D visuals. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to the hype. The standard elements and characteristics all stayed the same, including the bloodshed. However, the horribly aged graphics combined with bland new characters and unresponsive controls make it mediocre at best.
MORTAL KOMBAT GOLD (1999)
Mortal Kombat Gold is the only game in the series which was released on the Dreamcast console. To put it mildly, the game was pretty average. The weapons were useless and boring, the graphics are nowhere near the arcade version, and it had a lot of glitches.
MORTAL KOMBAT: SPECIAL FORCES (2000)
Special Forces served as a prequel to the rest of the series. The player plays Jax as he hunts down another character from Kano. Although it’s from a TPP, there’s not much else to indicate the game belongs to the Mortal Kombat series.
MORTAL KOMBAT: ADVANCE (2001)
Advance was released as a Game Boy Advance port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Since the Game Boy only had 4 buttons, most special moves had to be changed. So did the violence. The developers toned down the amount of blood and gore because of the younger userbase.
MORTAL KOMBAT: DEADLY ALLIANCE (2002)
Luckily for us, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was an improvement to the 3D theme, and not only in terms of graphics. The basic fighting elements, along with the story, became more elevated. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance introduced a truce between two of the series’ most vile characters, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi. Definitely a step up from Mortal Kombat 4.
MORTAL KOMBAT: TOURNAMENT EDITION (2003)
As it was a quick release for GBA, the Tournament Edition follows the storyline of Deadly Alliance. Three new modes were added – Survival, Tag Team, and Practice. The edition also featured weapon fatalities. As for the story itself, the battle between two dark forces is at play. The player must win the tournament in order to save the world, and as always, we take that very seriously.
MORTAL KOMBAT: DECEPTION (2004)
Mortal Kombat: Deception is easily one of the most solid games in the franchise. Instead of going overboard with new crazy additions, the developers decided to focus on rebalancing the fighting already introduced in Deadly Alliance. They did, however, tweak a few things so we wouldn’t get bored. The arenas were more diversified, and gamers could enjoy attractions like mini-games, visiting crypts, and even a fictionalized campaign mode.
MORTAL KOMBAT: SHAOLIN MONKS (2005)
Since the game was released during the 6th generation of consoles, the quality and performance of the Shaolin Monks entry was exquisite for the time. Its fluid combat system allowed the players to handle multiple enemies. We’re completely immersed in a unique 3D adventure, and all game events are in TPP (Third Person Perspective). The developers made an attempt to somehow sneak in a progression system that would allow gamers to upgrade Kung Lao’s or Liu Kang’s moves, but the system wasn’t quite there yet.
MORTAL KOMBAT: ARMAGEDDON (2006)
This one is among the rare early 2000s games that truly did well in the franchise. The gameplay and core mechanics both rely heavily on those from Deadly Alliance and Deception. However, the players could now create new fighters, along with a finishing combo. All this paired with Konquest mode and a kart racing mini-game resulted in the overall success of Armageddon.
ULTIMATE MORTAL KOMBAT 3 (2006)
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was released a few weeks after Armageddon. The entry was basically a remake of Mortal Kombat 3 from 1995, with an altered gameplay system. The game also reintroduced Kitana and Scorpion. Sadly, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was only available on Xbox 360.
MORTAL KOMBAT UNCHAINED (2006)
Speaking of remakes, Mortal Kombat Unchained was the remake of Deception. The gameplay focuses on Shao Kahn and Goro, featuring fan favorites like Jax, Frost, Kitana, and Blaze. The plus side of the game is that all characters are available from the very onset of the game. You only needed to unlock alternate costumes. Endurance mode lets you face a flurry of enemies, which was definitely a nice bonus.
ULTIMATE MORTAL KOMBAT (2007)
Midway was trying to dominate the handheld console market, so instead of coming up with something new, they ported games that were previous hits for handheld devices. Here enters Ultimate Mortal Kombat, a port for Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. This Nintendo DS entry is known for being an almost perfect port of its arcade version. The characters pretty much stayed the same (Ermac, Mileena, Klassic Sub-Zero).
MORTAL KOMBAT VS. DC UNIVERSE (2008)
This entry was the result of the collaborative effort of Midway Games, Warner Bros., and DC Comics. As the name would suggest, the game allows the player to participate in fights between characters of both franchises. Unfortunately, the promised visuals carried on the Unreal Engine 3 didn’t quite deliver. The 3D fighting was okay, at best. And frankly, the merge of the two set a really weird storyline. In terms of success, this one was a flop.
MORTAL KOMBAT (2011)
If the Mortal Kombat franchise had a health bar, Mortal Kombat 9 would’ve definitely given it a major boost. The games’ new developer, NetherRealm Studios, decided to create a seamless blend of 2D and 3D graphics, all without affecting the brutality, and to enrich this edition with an over-the-top Story Mode, eventually bringing the franchise to its original glory. Game modes such as Tag Team and an X-ray system were also included. Additionally, Mortal Kombat 9 revised the events of the first three games by bringing gamers back from the very brink of Armageddon, with the narrative going back all the way to the beginning of the story, which is pretty neat.
MORTAL KOMBAT ARCADE KOLLECTION (2011)
Now, this collection offers gamers renewed versions of Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. But that’s not all. It also includes multiplayer duel modes. Overall, it did a pretty decent job of making the arcade classics available in higher-quality formats. Unfortunately, like any arcade game, it’s a bit cheesy and a bit more difficult. But if you’re up for a challenge, definitely give this installment a try.
MORTAL KOMBAT X (2015)
Now this one definitely holds a special place in our hearts. The game welcomes the return of bloody brutal fights and end matching moves, with an added stamina meter. This means you have to strategically think about your next move. The icing on the cake would definitely have to be the new characters. Whether we’re talking about new generation kombatants like Cassie Cage, or Jacqui Briggs, or the Kytinn species’ D’vorah, the compelling story mode binds them all together as they fight for the fate of the realms.
MORTAL KOMBAT XL (2016)
Mortal Kombat is essentially an upgrade of Mortal Kombat X. Unfortunately, there are no new Towers, and no new Crypt items to unlock. The game follows the storyline of the events that took place 25 years after the original game. It does offer a new story where new characters like Johnny Cage play a vital role. The graphics in the game are still 2.5D, and special attacks are still the best part of the game. There’s also plenty of skins to choose from, so now you can look good offing people.
MORTAL KOMBAT 11 (2019)
Mortal Kombat 11 is the 11th and most recent installment of the Mortal Kombat franchise. The game has a whole new graphics engine, and NetherRealm Studios really went all out to create a novel experience built on the foundation of Mortal Kombat 9. You can easily spot nods to the Mortal Kombat series past, and there’s even a massive Aftermath expansion which added a whole second story mode, with Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa once again playing Shang Tsung (1995 film). Whichever way you look at it, Mortal Kombat 11 definitely delivers.
Mortal Kombat is Here to Stay
Mortal Kombat may have many games on its list, and not every single one made a big title for itself, but the franchise continued being a must-try for any gamer in the past three decades. Continuous efforts to come up with new editions, features, and a persistence to stay on the market made the Mortal Kombat series what it is today.
And, fact is: the Mortal Kombat franchise gave us so much quality content and endless hours of violent fun. It’s not up to us to play favorites. But speaking of, which Mortal Kombat game was your go-to?